Monday, November 18, 2013


The great thing about being retired (i.e. can’t be arsed to look for a job) is that every day is your own. You open your eyes to greet the morning thinking, “What adventures can I undertake on this day, what pleasures can I squeeze from these malleable hours, what joys can I uncover?”

It is, indeed, wonderful. Except for Monday; that’s laundry day.

Yes, today is earmarked for sorting, decoding tags, deciphering washing machine settings and wrangling wet laundry onto the drying racks. There has to be a simpler way.

Actually, there is: when I was single, I used to pop my weekly laundry—as a single load—in my American-sized washer. Forty minutes later I would toss it all into my American-sized dryer. Job done. Here, I suppose, it could be that simple; the altered variable in the formula is not the fact that I switched countries but that I got married.

Washing women’s clothing is difficult and time consuming (well, it you want to do it right, which I have recently proposed to do). I used to separate clothes into two piles – Kinda Light and Kinda Dark – and wash them on the same setting I use to wash my jeans. The results were not always satisfactory—especially for sheer stockings and woollen dresses—so, having conquered the basics, I decided I should try to up my game.

The first issue I encountered was one of laundry distribution: whereas a man (we’re talking generalities here, not about us specifically, but, well, you know I had to get my data from somewhere; just sayin’) might have half a dozen items of clothing in a typical overflowing laundry hamper, a woman will have approximately 87. And each one of them will have a tag with teeny, tiny writing on it that provides instruction for the care, feeding and cleaning of that item. And no two tags will contain the same instructions.

So this is how I spend the bulk of my Monday mornings, staring through a magnifying glass at indecipherable symbols on little tags. One appears to be a curling stone rolling over marbles and another apparently represents a target with an X through it, meaning, I assume, that you should not shoot the garment or lay it on ice if there is a curling game going on.

Seriously, I need to consult a decoder sheet in order to sort the laundry these days.
“Wash inside out at 40C only,” “Wash upside down at 30C only,” “Wash from front to back on months with an “R” in them and left to right if you have German heritage,” and my favorite, which I am not making up, “Wash Separately.” Do you know how many of the 87 garments demand to be washed in a private cycle? And this wouldn’t be quite so bad if British washing machine cycles took as long as US washing machine cycles. In the US, could just about watch an episode of The Wonder Years before the spin sequence ended, but here you can set the machine for a Synthetics wash, take a short vacation and arrive back just about the time the buzzer goes off. So, in short, I ignore “Wash Separately;” I can’t be bothered with these prima donna demands, so I just blindfold them and tell them they are alone.

Then, of course, there is “Hand Wash.” This has been rendered a little easier by the “Hand Wash” cycle on the washing machine—but isn’t that a contradiction in terms? At any rate, I Hand Wash most of the Hand Wash items in the Hand Wash automatic washing machine cycle, except for the ones that really look like they need hand washing. Personally, I think they give out “Hand Wash” tags a little too freely at the clothing factory. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a pair of denim jeans labeled “Hand Wash,” or, for that matter, a swimsuit marked, “Dry Clean Only.”

I'm pretty sure this is the only instruction label clothes
had on them when I was younger.
I did consider trying to save time by using a permanent, dayglow marker to print—in easily understandable language—the unique combination of washing instructions on each garment, but since my other idea of marking the sheets and blankets to assist in bed-making didn’t go over so well, this idea never made it out of the "just thinking about it" phase.

(NOTE: I actually did use a permanent black marker to delineate the halfway points of the sheets and blankets. The idea was, by matching up the marks with the halfway marker I carved into the bed frame with kitchen knife (don’t tell my wife) I could speed up the process of symmetrically arranging the bedding. Don’t try it; it didn’t work.)

Now, I’m not complaining because all this label reading/garment washing takes up the majority of my day (really, what else am I going to do with my time?) but I think you ladies should be a bit concerned about this, especially those of you without a layabout husband willing to do your laundry one garment at a time. I fear the garment manufacturing industry (or at least the division that hands out the laundry tags) is in a conspiracy to keep women so busy doing laundry that they won’t have time to take over the world. You should rise up and demand laundry-equality so you can do your laundry like men do.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t take long to get used to the grey hue all your whites take on.


  1. This is so hilarious!! I remember when my now husband, then boyfriend bought his first house and I dropped by to visit one day, he was standing in the kitchen with two piles of laundry, whites and darks, and he had a blue and white striped shirt in his hands trying to decide which pile it belonged to. I introduced him to the idea of "lights" for things like this!! He now puts anything he doesn't know what to do with in lights, so we do end up with a few problems occasionally!!

    1. Men and laundry are just not suited for each other; it's genetic.

  2. It's a well known fact that most "special" garments don't actually need the special treatment, but the one time you decide to try your luck you will ruin the most expensive garment on the planet.

    1. File that under "Sod's Law" ;)

  3. Mrs Baum12:35 PM

    How fantastic to only have to do washing once a week though! My machine (a large capacity one - for Britain, at least) goes on about 10-12 times a week, and that's just with 3 of us here. My son's sports kit could possibly launch a bid for world domination if I didn't keep it under control.

    I would like to report some progress in the equality stakes in the Baum household though. Husband put on the washing machine last weekend! This is probably roughly an annual event, and only occurs when I shove a basketful into his arms eith instructions what to do with it, but still... every little helps eh.

    1. I do realize we are fortunate to only have to do laundry once a week. It was a lot different when I was brining up 3 boys. Back then, the washer and dryer always seemed to be running.

  4. What's even more confusing is staring at a washing machine with instructions in Albanian. (If you're not Albanian, which I am not.) I had to be creative, not to speak of courageous. Fortunately no disasters ensued.

    Thanks for the laughs. Have you checked to see if there's a laundry course available on the internet?

    1. I just now Googled "Laundry Classes" and, yes, they do have them. That's sad. Good luck with the Albanian washer.

  5. It seems like laundry can be a big hassle in a lot of circumstances. When my kids were little, I had to haul the wash (including diapers) out to a laundromat. When they were older I had a washer and dryer but after I moved into an apartment, I had to lug the laundry up one or two flights of stairs depending on how busy the laundry rooms were. Now I have a washer and dryer in my very own laundry room. What luxury! When I see all the folks down at the corner laundromat, I always feel sorry for them.